Friday, February 4, 2011

I did all I could

One of the hardest things about being an artist is that much of your experience is in the hands of someone else.

The gallerist decides whether or not to represent your work. The reviewer decides whether or not to write about your work. The curator decides whether or not to include your work. The committee decides whether or not to award a grant based on your work. The collector decides whether or not to purchase your work.

Earlier this week I got back in the mail all of the hard-copy materials I had sent to apply for a grant that I was not awarded. As I plucked out from the page protectors all of the items I had sent, in direct response to the grant organization’s specifications, my heart ached, as I remembered how I had felt when I was first assembling my application.

I felt so hopeful that I might receive the grant! I felt so proud of the accomplishments I was documenting in my application! I worked so hard to write a clear and honest request for funds. I considered so carefully which of my paintings to include.

Frankly, I felt like crying. What had I done wrong? Why wasn’t my application accepted?

Then something clicked in my brain, and I slowly looked back over my application. I reread my statement. I looked at the thumbnails of my work that I had printed out. I looked at the folder in which I had assembled the materials. I looked at my resume, with its list of hard-won accomplishments from the past.

I realized: THERE WAS NOTHING ELSE I COULD HAVE DONE. I hadn't done anything wrong. I had submitted the best possible application I could have submitted.

And somehow I felt a wave of relief. I knew I had done my part, and the next step was for the jurors to realize the quality of my work and the worth of my application. I had done as well as I could to present them, and that was all I could have done.

My next feeling was a steely determination to try again … and keep on trying, for as long as it takes.

11 comments:

Matthew G. Beall said...

I completely relate to where you are coming from. The conclusion is this: Rejection just plain SUCKS!

bbinkyn1 said...

I know that the next time will be a charm. Who knows what goes into the judging experience? You have so much talent, experience, and I have total faith in you. I know of an individual that doesn't have a fraction of the talent that you have yet she receives a grant year after year. You are a wonderful human being, fantastic artist and your blogs are extremely inspirational. I'm sure that you did everything that you could.

Karen Jacobs said...

That's all you can do. That 'out of your hands' feeling can be pretty heavy, I know!

Catherine Carter said...

Matthew, you are SO RIGHT! We all have those battle scars!

Thank you for the kind words, Bianka. Onward and upward!

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

I understand your experience. It isn't fun to always feel that you are in the position of being judged or at least having others judge your work but that's how it works. The important part of this is the one you had when you reviewed your application and knew you had submitted a great package. Know that you are not alone and that you will continue to make your work and you have the support and appreciation of many friends and peers.xo,T

Martha Marshall said...

And then there's the politics. It's a very real factor. You just never, ever know what goes into these decisions.

I'm glad you decided to take a philosophical approach after experiencing the initial sting, knowing you did your absolute best. It still hurts, but we get up and keep going.

Catherine Carter said...

You are all so kind to reassure me. I felt such relief in knowing there was nothing else I could have done, and in recognizing that I love my work and am proud of my accomplishments, and that's really all that matters. (Although a little extra change jingling in the wallet would be welcome, as well!)

Nancy Natale said...

Catherine, my sympathy to you! We've all been there and will be again. It does sting when those rejections come in. The philosophical approach is to think that if you never apply, you are guaranteed not to get the grant. I'm glad that you felt you had done all you could. Each time you apply, you get better at it.

There is one grant that I apply for year after year and I am always rejected. I think I've applied five or six times now. I think of it as a kind of grudge match. I'm going to keep coming back year after year just to annoy those bastards. Keep rejecting me, you S.O.B.s, I dare yah!

Catherine Carter said...

Thank you, Nancy. To be honest, your recent successes have really inspired me.

Yes, I have applied for this particular grant three times now. I think I'll follow your in-your-face application plan and keep applying every year! ;-)

Kathy Hodge said...

There does come a point I think where all the applications have equal merit, and then it's up to the grantee to pick one for reasons only known to him/her/them. So why not believe that yours was in that group and you just didn't win the lottery?

I've been rejected so many times I've saved my letters and photographed them here. Somehow that gives me a perverse pleasure...

Catherine Carter said...

Love your posts on this topic, Kathy. And I appreciate your philosophy: since we don't know for sure, and can never really know for sure, why not assume the best? Thank you for writing.